I remember the feelings I had right before my oldest daughter started kindergarten. I wanted to be involved in her education or at least be there for her at times when she may need extra help. I was very fortunate to have a work schedule that allowed flexibility her first year of school. I was able to volunteer an hour of my time every Tuesday to go into her classroom and help out. While there, I might provide assistance to students who needed some extra reading help, I might participate in a project students were working on, or I may just hang out and observe the interactions of the kids. It was a great experience and I am very thankful my daughter had a teacher that welcomed me to the classroom. I think there can be a fine line between wanting to help and being a distraction and hopefully I was more help than a distraction.
Whether you are the parent of a kindergartner or the parent of an older student, I would encourage you to look into spending some time in the classroom. I think there are a number of benefits. I think you gain insight into your child’s world. You learn about the daily things that they do and experience. I also think it can help build a bond with your child’s teacher(s) which helps open lines of communication in case there are issues or concerns. As a board member I don’t want to infringe on teachers rights to regulate their classrooms, but I would encourage them to welcome parents into the classroom if possible. The more connections we build within the classroom, our educational community will be stronger.
Volunteering in the classroom isn’t the only place a parent can help. We also have PTA’s and PTO’s at each of our elementary and middle schools. These parent-teacher organizations do a lot of work behind the scenes helping to coordinate, and execute numerous events that help raise funds for their respective schools. If you haven’t signed up to participate in the PTA, please do. They are always in need of new ideas and fresh faces to help carry out such an important mission. If you aren’t sure who to contact, check your schools website via the District’s website. If you are still unsure, contact your building principal and they can put you in touch with the PTA/PTO president for the school your child attends.
There are many other ways to stay involved within our district. As we launch our new Talents and Passions initiative, we will be seeking assistance from community members who may have talents and passion that they wish to share with small groups of students. We are always looking for classroom literacy assistants. Ensuring children have ample reading practice is critical for them to develop and grow. Literacy assistants sometimes read to students, sometimes they listen to students read. Sometimes individuals are needed to chaperone trips, or help out with events at the school.
As I was reflecting back on my volunteering experience, I began to think; maybe this was too much of a one way street. I asked to inject myself into the teacher’s classroom, but did I ever ask if that teacher wanted to come join our family for dinner? Or participate in a family activity? Or make it known that anytime she might have a concern about my daughter that she could come to my home if needed to talk with me? Outside of the two parent teacher conferences a year, how often did I make efforts to connect with teachers to share concerns and make sure we were on the same page? I guess I am trying to say that it is great to go help out in a classroom, but perhaps had we invited my daughter’s teacher into our home; maybe she would have gained insight about my daughter’s world outside of school. Perhaps the teacher could have gained some insight about daily routines or issues that affected my daughter’s ability to learn which in turn would have helped the teacher modify lessons to meet the needs of my daughter. As the year goes on a teacher picks up on issues that affect their students, but it takes time and if you have a child who may have special needs, taking a year to figure out that what was happening in the classroom didn’t work for the student is way too long. So my thought is, invite your children’s teacher over for dinner, or for a visit. Helping define a clear picture of educational outcomes is great for students, but it is also helpful for parents.
Being an involved parent can take many forms and I have appreciated being involved in my daughter’s education. I would encourage you to look into some of the above opportunities if you haven’t already.